I’ve taken a few giant leaps in my life. I don’t think of myself as a particularly brave person, but I understand how others might categorize some of my actions under the banner of bravery.
Some of these brave/potentially a little crazy things include:
- Moving to Paris at 20, with no plan whatsoever. I didn’t even book a hostel in advance for the night I arrived. I just went, and knew that things would be fine, and so they were. Why I chose to do this in November is beyond me.
- Leaving a job, via booking my first trip to New York for three weeks. Again with no plan. Two days before my trip, I still didn’t know where I was staying, but kept saying “I am pretty sure that things will just work out.” And so they did.
- Moving to Toronto for a job, without ever having set foot in Toronto. “What if you hate it?” “Well, if I hate it, I can just come home.” So far, it’s been a pretty amazing experience.
- Always speaking my mind, and speaking up. This one is a double edged sword. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it gets me in trouble. I am not a great bullshitter, and I have no desire to be. Sometimes it would just be easier to be able to keep my mouth shut, and to have the ability to be super easy going about things. But at the same time, I like being known as a person who is very “real” about things.
- Getting married at 24, and then separating a year later when I realized what a horrible mistake I had made. For me, this one is brave because I know so many people who have stayed in a terrible relationship far far too long, because of some weird sense of duty. This is not to say that you shouldn’t stick by your life partner when things are tough. The key here is knowing the difference between ‘a bad year’, and ‘a bad match’ – this difference is not always obvious when you’re in it.
The most recent of these leaps was quitting a very terrible job, with no solid plan in place for what to do next. When talking to friends/colleagues about this leap, the most common word used to describe this decision was “brave”. And I get it, making a big change and going out into the unknown is brave. Sure. But for me, more than bravery, it is just that my fear of mediocrity is so much greater than my fear of uncertainty.When I moved to Paris at age 20, the main motivator was hearing my mom talk over and over again about how she wanted to go to Italy, and never going despite having had both the means and the time. So when I applied for my work visa, and booked my ticket, my main motivator was, “Even if I never travel again for the rest of my life, at least I can say that I once took a leap of faith, and moved to Paris.” My motivator was the fear of regret. And that same fear applies to leaving my job. The idea of waking up in another two years, and thinking, “What the hell have I been doing with my life?”, and the fear of continuing to be that person who says things like, “God, I hate my job.” for even one more day, made me want to fucking crawl out my own skin.
Over the past few months, I have had so many people say to me, “That’s so amazing that you’re leaving your job; I wish that I could do that.” And my answer is always, “You can”. Listen. I know that it’s scary. I know that. Not having a plan is scary. Not having an income is scary. But what is infinitely scarier is waking up one day and realizing that you have spent most of your life forcing yourself into misery for the sake of stability. Noone. NOT ONE PERSON finds themselves on their death bed saying, “Damn. I really wish that I’d just stayed in that uninspiring/miserable job for a few more years.”, or “I’m so glad that I just kept all of those short stories that I wrote buried in a box for noone else to read.” NOONE SAYS THIS. What they do say is, “I wish that I’d listened to my gut.”; “I wish that I’d left that job sooner.”; “I wish that I’d been brave enough to move to Italy for a year, like I’d always dreamed.” Life is short, people. And I know that saying this is a cliche. But seriously, if you were diagnosed with cancer today, what immediate things in your life would you deeply regret not changing?
This is not to say that you should just live every moment like it’s your last. Because give me a break, that is just not realistic, and your life would end up being terrible in a completely different way. But if you use a compass in your heart gently guiding you away from regret, this can be an incredibly useful tool in helping you lean your life a little bit more heavily towards the side of bravery.
Aside – Yes, I am writing this from the perspective of a single lady, with no kids and no mortgage. And I know that having a partner, and children, and mortgage, can make these decisions more complicated. But you’re stronger and more creative than you think, and I guarantee that if you are really honest with yourself, that you can figure out teeny tiny ways to guide yourself towards bravery and away from regret.
Even if you’re not quite ready now, plant the seed today. Start dreaming about what your life could be if you were a little less afraid. You can do this.